Gtechniq Long Term Review Part 3: C5 Wheel Armour

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Ceramic wheel coating

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Protecting your wheels isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind when caring for your car. The reality is that they typically share a similar type of painted surface as the rest of your vehicle – but they are exposed to a lot more abuse.

Wheels are often the dirtiest part of your vehicle, aside from the undercarriage. They see plenty of tar, mud and road salt but the biggest threat to them is brake dust.

Brake dust is very nasty stuff. Unlike regular dirt and dust, brake dust is made up of sharp, metallic particles that will stick into the pores of a painted surface. If left on the surface for too long, it can cause rust, corrosion, and even permanently stain your wheels.

But what if there was a way to slow down the buildup of brake dust, and also make it much easier to clean off when it does appear? That’s where ceramic coatings like Gtechniq C5 Wheel Armour come in.

This is Part 3 of my long term test of Gtechniq coatings. Just like the other products, I applied C5 Wheel Armour 2.5 years ago to my 4runner and haven’t touched it since – aside from washing it with regular car soap (no wheel cleaner!). If you haven’t yet, make sure to check out Part 1 – Crystal Serum Light and Exo V3 ceramic coatings and Part 2 – C4 Permanent Trim Restorer trim coating.

Ceramic wheel coating

What is Gtechniq C5 Wheel Armour?

C5 is a ceramic coating for your wheels. Gone are the days of wheel specific waxes and sealants – those products are rather obsolete now. They might have worked a bit better than a regular wax, but they just didn’t stand up to the heat of the brakes over time. That meant reapplying them often, all while gaining very little protection.

Is it worth it to ceramic coat wheels?

I don’t believe ceramic coatings are the answer for your vehicle’s paint every single time, but I’m a much bigger believer in using them on your wheels. They’re quick and easy to apply, provide long lasting protection, and make your wheels a lot easier to clean. That’s not marketing hype either. It’s my own personal experience.

There are a few reasons why you might choose to ceramic coat your wheels. The first is to protect your investment. Whether you’ve purchased a set of aftermarket wheels or you just want to care for the OEM wheels on a higher end car, protecting the finish on them gives you peace of mind.

Your wheels are the closest thing to the ground and it’s not uncommon for them to become corroded or have their clear coat damaged if they’re neglected.

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There’s no doubt that coating your wheels will make them look cleaner and shinier for longer. The slicker surface helps to keep things like brake dust and grime from building up quickly. This is a big bonus on vehicles that are driven regularly in all types of weather.

Once your wheels do get noticeably dirty, cleaning them is a breeze. The majority of contaminants can be blasted off with water. No need to use heavy duty wheel cleaners or acid. In the case of my 4runner, I’ve never had to use more than regular car soap to get them clean. And on that rig, they definitely get dirty.

The ease of cleaning can be a total lifesaver if you have wheels with a lot of hard to reach spokes. We’ve all seen intricate wheel designs and heard the phrase “I wouldn’t want to have to clean those!“.

It’s true though. Reaching into every nook and cranny can take forever. On that note, coating your wheels is also a great idea for vehicles with aggressive brake pads that create a lot of dust, or vehicles with white wheels (or both – yikes). Less time cleaning means more time driving.

Can you apply Gtechniq C5 to any type of wheel finish?

One of the most common questions I see about C5 or wheel coatings in general is whether or not it will work on satin and matte-finished wheels. The fear is that applying a product like this will cause them to turn glossy. I can happily report that is not the case.

My 4runner wears a set of matte black Method Race Wheels and they still look the way they’re supposed to. I’ve also applied it to other matte finish wheels with the same results. There might be slightly more sheen if you’re really nitpicking, but that’s a very small price to pay for all the benefits you get when coating your wheels.

Rest assured that your matte wheels will remain matte wheels. Glossy finish, matte finish, paint, powder coat, polished aluminum, chrome – you’re good to go.

How to apply Gtechniq C5

Application of this product is similar to any other type of ceramic coating. High spots are less of a concern than they are on the body of your car so you can breathe easy.

The hardest and most time-consuming part of the application process is really the prep work beforehand. On brand new wheels, it’s not a big deal – remove any goop from the tires being mounted, wipe them down with alcohol or Panel Wipe and you’re ready to rock. Wheels that have already been used on a car are going to require more work.

You’ll need to go through all the steps you would before applying a coating to your paint to thoroughly clean them. Start with a good wheel cleaner to do the initial heavy lifting.

You might want to follow up with an iron/fallout remover if your wheel cleaner of choice doesn’t contain something similar. A tar remover is also a good idea for any asphalt that might be stuck on, as well as leftover adhesive from old wheel weights.

Follow up with a clay bar to pull out any remaining brake dust that might be physically stuck in the pores of the finish. You might even want to polish them, but make sure you never reuse that specific pad on a paint job ever again.

Ceramic wheel coating

Once the wheels are clean and decontaminated, you can begin applying Gtechniq C5. They include a few lint-free applicators in the box but you can also use a suede applicator that you might use on your paint. If I’m going to go that route, I like to cut them down to a smaller size to make them more manageable in tight areas.

You might need to get your applicator a bit saturated in the beginning, but from that point on, less is more. The idea is to use just enough to get an even layer. Using any more than that is simply wasting product. Once you’re done either the face or the barrel of the wheel, you can come in with a microfiber towel and lightly knock down any excess coating.

It really is that easy. Once the coating is applied, it’s a good idea to keep your wheels dry for the next 24 hours. Parking your vehicle in a garage is a great way to avoid any surprise rain showers or morning dew although that isn’t always possible.

How long does Gtechniq C5 last in the real world?

C5 Wheel Armour is rated to last 1-2 years. In my case, it seems to still be doing its job 2.5 years later although it wouldn’t hurt to give it a refresh. Water beading may have died down a bit over time, but the wheels on the 4runner are still really easy to clean.

Dealing with water spots on matte finished wheels can be a pain. In the past, I’ve used a spray wax to help out with that but even then, getting a perfect finish requires some time and attention. This is no longer the case after coating them with Gtechniq C5. At most, I’ll give each wheel a quick spray of Optimum No Rinse before drying them off. Either way, it’s much easier to get rid of streaks and water spots after washing.

How much longer will C5 last on my wheels? It’s hard to say. As long as they’re cleaned regularly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it lasted another year or two. I’ll be redoing at least the faces when I give the whole 4runner some TLC though just to stay on top of things.

Where to buy Gtechniq C5 Wheel Armour

Gtechniq C5 is available at most detailing supply stores. You can also purchase it online here. It might seem like a lot of money for such a tiny bottle, but remember that a little goes a long way. I’d say the chances of you having enough leftover for other vehicles or projects afterward is pretty likely.

Alternatives to Gtechniq C5

If for whatever reason you feel that C5 isn’t for you, there are other similar products available. Gyeon Rim seems to be another popular option for a wheel coating. Some people opt to repurpose a coating like Crystal Serum Light on their wheels although I haven’t done so myself. My concern would be whether or not a traditional coating will be able to withstand the high temperatures of the brakes.

You can also stick with doing things the old fashioned way by hitting your wheels with a wax or sealant regularly. This might save you some money, but you’ll miss out on nearly all of the performance of a ceramic wheel coating.

If your wheels don’t seem to get very dirty and they have a simple design, you might want to stick with just using wheel cleaners and brushes often. That has worked fine for people for decades, although using a product like C5 certainly makes a noticeable improvement.

Off label uses for Gtechniq C5

Now for one of my favorite parts of these reviews: off label uses. Gtechniq C5 has no shortage of them. Being a ceramic wheel coating means it can withstand high temperatures, help to make dirty areas easier to clean, and maintain the original finish even on matte surfaces.

There are other parts of a vehicle that can benefit from these properties than just your wheels. I’ve been finding other interesting uses for Gtechniq C5 that you might find helpful as well:

Brake calipers

This one is probably obvious. Many performance-oriented cars have fancy looking brake calipers. Some of them even come painted in a bright color. Allowing these to get built up with baked on brake dust will really subtract from your vehicle’s appearance.

Since your brakes live right next door to your wheels (and C5 is formulated to hold up to that heat), coating them is a great idea. Again, this one might not be very “off label” as it’s pretty common now.

Suspension components

While we’re in the wheel well (say that 5 times fast), let’s talk about the suspension. Seeing those expensive coilovers you upgraded to become diminished over time can be a bit of a bummer.

We can’t always jack up the car, remove the wheels, and clean these components every time we wash it. But we want those shiny, bouncy bits to last as long as possible – and hopefully look cool too.

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I experimented with C5 on my 4runner’s Fox suspension and was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. The areas that I can see and reach to clean still look like brand new. The other areas might be dirtier looking, but nowhere near as run down as they would if they were uncoated. Blasting the road grime off these shocks with a pressure washer is not only easy but also fun. Most of it simply falls off.

This might not be a big deal for lowered cars or vehicles that don’t get very dirty. But on taller 4×4 trucks where the suspension is visible, this is an awesome little hack.

A ceramic coating probably won’t protect much against rust. My springs have a few rusty patches to prove it. Oil spraying is still a better option for rust protection. But if you think about it, contaminants like road salt are typically the biggest cause of rust. So if we can make it easier to clean the salt off, or avoid having it stick to the surface as much, this should help to avoid corrosion in a roundabout way.

Exhaust pipes/tips

Don’t worry, I already know that a vehicle’s exhaust gas temperature is way, way higher than the brakes. The EGT gauge in my MR2 that routinely reads over 1,000 degrees has made me aware of that.

Something to keep in mind though is that reading is taken from the probe right up near the engine. Inches away from where things are exploding. Once you factor in the distance the air travels along the vehicle to get to the tip, that temperature has come down quite a bit. Case in point – I’ve seen the MR2’s exhaust manifold glow red at night, and yet the stainless tip on the exhaust isn’t even discolored.

Best exhaust for Toyota 4runner

Before the Gibson exhaust was installed on my 4runner, I coated the satin black tip with C5. Once again, I was curious to see what it would do. Exhaust soot is somewhat similar to brake dust so I thought this might make an improvement. My hope was that it would be easier to clean and avoid water spots, and less likely to have things stick to it. So far so good.

Now I’ll admit, water beading isn’t very noticeable on this. Maybe it’s because it isn’t holding up to the heat as well as I had hoped. Or maybe it’s because I used a 2 year old, open bottle of C5 that is starting to expire. Either way, the tip still looks like new.

I also recently tried it on the chrome Vance and Hines exhaust on my Harley, but it’s still too soon to see if it’ll hold up to those extreme temperatures. I guess I just like torture testing stuff.

LED light bar housings

Wait, what? Who on earth ceramic coats their LED light bars? Before you make fun of me, hear me out. I have cheaper Chinese light bars on the 4runner that are notorious for their housings fading and turning brown from being exposed to the sun. The one hidden in my front bumper I wasn’t too concerned about. The one up on the roof rack? Yeah, that one’s a bit vulnerable.

One of the reasons we use ceramic coatings on our paint is to protect against damage from UV rays. Those same UV rays are most certainly what causes the black coating on the light bars to fade and turn brown.

My thinking is that C5 might be able to protect the housings while maintaining the satin black finish. I’ve noticed them starting to fade recently, but they’ve been on there for years. Keep in mind my 4runner is parked outside every day of the year too, so they’ve seen some serious UV rays.

Bicycle rack

I know, we’re getting a bit silly here. At this point, I’m looking for things with a matte black finish that I want to protect and make easier to clean. My Hollywood bike rack falls in that category perfectly. I haven’t actually tried this yet, but I intend to.

The final verdict

Gtechniq C5 is one product that I can see myself continuing to use for a long time. From protecting high end supercar wheels to silly uses like light bar housings, this little bottle of goodness packs a serious punch.

I’m sure I’ll keep finding other uses for it but for now, I couldn’t be happier. It’s easy to apply, doesn’t cost a fortune (compared to having it done at a detailing shop) and most definitely lives up to the hype. Give it a shot and buy a bottle – worst case, you don’t like it on your wheels and use it on your bike rack instead.

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